An ambitious overhaul of the UK’s border control systems has been met with resounding approval from industry leaders, including Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC).
The initiative aims to enhance national and biosecurity while optimizing the flow of goods, aligning closely with Jenney’s long-standing advocacy for an industry-focused approach to border controls.
Several major changes secured by FPC include – EU edible fresh produce will not be subject to pre-notification requirements or UK border inspections. This decision will prevent additional border costs of approximately US$300 million annually being incurred by the sector and subsequently hard-pressed consumers.
As of Jan. 30, 2024, imports, including medium-risk animal products, plants and plant products and high-risk food of non-animal origin from the EU, will require health certificates, followed by physical inspections of these goods at the UK border from the end of April next year.
In the final phase, safety and security declarations for EU imports will come into force from the end of October 2024.
Full customs controls for “non-qualifying Northern Ireland goods” will also be introduced from January. This involves items like food and feed products that are not owned or processed in Northern Ireland by a registered or approved business.
Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said the new system would mean “more efficient trading for businesses” and “bring considerable benefits to the UK economy and to UK trade”.
A Bold Step
Reacting to the announcement on Aug. 29 Jenney says, “FPC welcomes the publication of the final Border Target Operating Model. It’s clear, the government has acted upon our concerns and will now implement a unique border approach for the benefit of consumers and industry. This focused risk-based approach will reinforce UK biosecurity and promote self-regulation to minimize supply chain disruption.
“This fundamental change of the UK government’s approach has been years in the making and the FPC team has been at the forefront of developing solutions which promote biosecurity and minimize the impact on responsible companies.
“Let’s be clear, challenges remain. However, this is a bold step forward to achieve our ambition to become a world-leading destination of choice promoting imports and exports of fantastic fresh produce, and flowers and plants.
“Ultimately, where relevant and particularly for the cut flower and plant sector, we need effective inspection solutions for SMEs, groupage consignments and the immediate approval of responsible companies to complete their own official inspections. In the meantime, we look forward to receiving confirmation that the proposed Common User Charge strategy will be abandoned by the government.”
Biosecurity and Supply Chain Stability
Echoing Jenney’s emphasis on a “focused risk-based approach,” the government plans to incorporate robust mechanisms for identifying, isolating, and managing biosecurity threats. These will be coupled with a new database and enhanced screening procedures to ensure the utmost in national protection.
Collaboration for a Future-Proof Framework
In a move that validates FPC’s consistent calls for a balanced, industry-inclusive approach, the government will also be engaging stakeholders from a diverse range of sectors. Public awareness initiatives are in the pipeline to keep the citizenship well-informed about the sweeping changes ahead.
In a closing statement, the government announced, “With these state-of-the-art measures, we are not just mitigating the risks of today but preparing for the future, ensuring that the UK remains a prime location for both security and trade.”